Fending Off the Night by CAConrad

‘Bioluminescence is the most common form of communication on planet Earth.’
— Dr. Sylvia Earle, her talk at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia

Fear of the dark motivated prehistoric human beings to discover and invent ways of holding onto light throughout the night. We take light bulbs and electricity for granted, but for centuries we have found many means to harness different materials to make light: wood, animal fat, beeswax, paraffin, gas, electricity, etc. I wrote a list of the various ways I have used or witnessed human-made light so far in my lifetime: electric ceiling lights, floodlights, emergency exit lights, streetlights, headlights, flashlights, lighthouses, oil lamps, wood stoves, campfires, torches, candles, twinkling Christmas lights, etc. I took notes for the poem.

Then by candlelight, I meditated on fear of the dark. What were the reasons for our ancestors to be afraid of the dark? How have those fears transferred through the centuries to us and where do I feel it in my own body and life? Are horror movies a conduit we employ for restimulating those fears? I took notes for the poem.

Then I taped small flashlights to my shoulders and wore a thin, coloured shirt over top, glowing in the dark while meditating on photos from the deepest parts of the oceans, where most life on Earth lives. With their bodies these creatures create light to say Hello, to find a mate, to hunt prey, to detract from predators.Their language of light is beyond anything we can convey or experience on the surface of the planet. I took notes for the poem.

Then I half-filled a large bucket with sand. After securing a flashlight inside the sand, turned on and pointing up, I filled the bucket, plunging the flashlight into darkness. Outside in the dark of the New Moon, I slowly removed thin layers of sand from the surface, one, layer, at, a, time, until the faintest translucent glow appeared. I took notes for the poem.

This ritual was originally published in the Ignota Diary 2019. The Ignota Diary 2023 is now shipping.